I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 (NIV)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem during the Civil War that provides the lyrics for the Christmas song I heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Longfellow lost both his son and wife toward the end of the war. Longfellow penned his ache—an ache intensified by the joys of Christmas.
For many, the joy of Christmas shines a bright light on their pain. It’s a reminder of those who aren’t here to share the joy. It’s a reminder that another year is about to end and once more, goals are left unattained. For some Christmas is a painful reminder of childhood hurts. For others the commercialization of Christmas fuels their feelings of inadequacy.
As I listen to the news, it seems Longfellow, if he was still alive, could write the same poem today. The quiet despair of financial burden, the uneasiness that seems to lurk in the shadows of everyday life, and the blatant unrest of war, and stressed race and socioeconomic relationships all seem to outshout the angel’s cry of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men.
Longfellow and the writer of Laminations seem to have the same thought process. Bitterness, despair, and pain—all easy to remember—all easily displace joy, hope and peace.
Notice, both writers change tone half way through their writing.
Hate may seem strong. Wrong may mock the song of peace and goodwill. Your pain may cause you to question God’s goodness and motive. You may feel caught in a churning pool of unrest. As real as those situations are and as intense as your emotions feel, can I offer you something just as real and just as intense?
I’ve lived in the churning waves of uncertainty. I’ve lived in the pain of not enough—both love and money. I’ve lived many days when I wondered why God had forgotten me or decided simply to not listen to my cries for help. I went to sleep on nights knowing the next day would offer no consolation to my pain. I don’t speak the words of hope glibly.
In all those days, when the question, “Why?” had no answer—God’s Word offered hope. It’s because of God’s love we are not consumed. The often-quoted prophetic passages from Isaiah take on a deeper meaning when one looks at the circumstances surrounding them. When despair and hopelessness come to mind, hold on to Isaiah’s prophetic promise—with both hands!
Isaiah begins with a great transition sentence:
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever.
The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For You will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as You did when you destroyed the army of Midian. The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
For a child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! Isaiah 9:1-7 (NLT)
Father, the world needs an extra helping of hope today. When I begin to despair and feel helpless remind me of Your glorious promise—there IS hope in You. Heal the hurt, comfort the unrest, strengthen my faith. Help me look to You for peace and hope.
Image courtesy of Bing.com/images